June 14, 2014
Reporter: Kristin Stoller
Source: The New Haven Register
It seemed like any other Saturday in Goffe Street Park.
Children swung on monkey bars and bounced basketballs on the hot asphalt, but next to them stood a table filled with food and a giant food truck displaying the words “Free Meals Here.”
Saturday marked the start of “Blitz Week,” an initiative to increase participation in the free summer meals programs for children and teens ages 18 and under available throughout the state. New Haven public schools, the New Haven Food Policy Council and the Connecticut No Kid Hungry campaign were joined by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, U.S. Rep. Rose DeLauro and others to kick off the program.
“Food helps kids to grow, to learn, to do better in school,” DeLauro said. “No child in Connecticut, no child in the United States of America, should be hungry — not in the land of great plenty.”
In a 2013 study, three in 10 seventh-graders reported having food insecurity, said Alycia Santilli of the New Haven Food Policy Council. And four in 10 families in low-income neighborhoods were going hungry.
“They are going to be hungry because there wasn’t enough food at dinner or there wouldn’t be enough food at the end of the month for them,” she said. Monthly incomes tend to dwindle then.
Santilli and about 50 volunteers went door to door Saturday, spreading the word about the free summer meals program.
Malloy said he was worried about the drop in scholastic knowledge that takes place over the summer, when children aren’t involved in educational programs and don’t have the nourishment they need to maintain good health. He said the free summer meals program will help, in part, prevent the large fallback.
“July is summer meals month,” Malloy said while presenting a proclamation to those involved in the program. “We want to see more children fed.”
Executive Director of End Hunger Connecticut! Lucy Nolan said Connecticut ranks fourth in the nation for the number of children participating in free summer meals programs. However, only 26.4 percent of low-income children who receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year participated in summer meals programs last year, she said.
“We found that most low-income families report they spend $300 more per month on food when their kids aren’t in school,” Nolan said.
Due to this, they have established about 400 sites in Connecticut, and more than 60 sites in New Haven alone, where children can receive free summer meals, she said. These sites can be found at www.ctsummerfood.org, by calling 2-1-1 toll free or by texting “CTMeals” to 877-877.
For Terrance Jackson, Sr., a canvassing volunteer, the issue of hungry children hits close to home.
“I have eight children of my own,” he said. “It means a lot to us because we see a lot of hungry children (in the community) every day.”As for today’s canvassing efforts, Jackson said the response has been positive.“But we have to keep at it,” he said. “It doesn’t stop here.”